About Us: History

Garden City Ballet - Preserving Missoula's Nutcracker for our children and community....


Kitty van der Linde, a local dance teacher in Missoula, founded the Garden City Ballet Company (GCB) in 1984. The first Nutcracker was held at the University Theatre for four nights in December of that year; the entire show cost less than $5,000 and featured approximately 60 performers.


Kitty graduated from the Brabants Conservatory of Music and Dance (Fonty's) in the Netherlands. In addition to GCB, Kitty also founded the Garden City Wooden Shoe Dancers (1981) and Sweetwater County Ballet Guild in Green River, Wyoming (1985). Experienced in choreography and pedagogy, Miss Kitty produced The Nutcracker for five years in the early 80s, while teaching partnering classes at the Third Street Studio in Missoula. Miss Kitty has performed in Europe and the U.S., and also has experience in television.


"Garden City Ballet had (at that time) the wooden shoe dancers—this was my way of holding onto my heritage—I taught them to dance in real wooden shoes…I choreographed the dances, shortened the outfit (they were in the colors of the Dutch flag), had my parents send me the real wooden shoes, and we were off. The original GCB Company Productions were the creative outlet for my choreography and direction. It was my baby." 

- Kitty van der Linde


After Kitty began this labor of love, it was taken over by Jan Snow, during which time GCB became a non-profit corporation.


"As a child growing up in Montana there was little in the way of training and performing opportunities in classical ballet at a professional level. As the Artistic Director of Garden City Ballet I had the opportunity to develop a company rich in the classical ballet tradition which enabled our young dancers to both experience the joy of dancing and the ability to compete on a national level." - Jan Snow


In 1999, Michele Antonioli, a long-time Missoula ballet teacher and faculty member at the University of Montana, took the reins and brought her brand of unique sensitivity to the production.


“My most poignant memories have to do with standing backstage during a performance and watching young and mature dancers on stage–doing what they do so beautifully and with such commitment…and at the same time observing the dancers and parents off stage eagerly watching the action from another perspective. This kind of intense creative adventure offers opportunities to weld families, friends and communities together in a common cause that fosters incredible memories for everyone. I love that." - Michele Antonioli


Michele passed the baton to Artistic Director Pam Copley in 2002, and Pam continued our mission of giving the young ballet dancers of Missoula the opportunity to grow in their craft while nurturing them through the family experience that is The Nutcracker.


"I love every second of being at the theatre during that final week of rehearsals. Watching the younger children’s faces glow with excitement and the seasoned dancers count down the weeks until they perform yet another Nutcracker provides memories I will never forget. It is a magical experience for a child to grow up dancing in The Nutcracker each Christmas. What a treasure the Garden City Ballet has been for myself and the people of Missoula." - Pam Copley


In 2008, Michael Murphy came on board as the Producing Director. Michael’s background in directing for the theater and acting was a wonderful addition to the creative team. He restructured the Nutcracker script, as well as worked with set designers to raise the level of production to an all-time high.


“I am a huge believer in creating opportunities in the arts for our children, particularly in those areas that involve collaboration and a focus on excellence. The energy generated by inspiring each other is much greater than any of us can muster alone.” - Michael Murphy


December 2009 marked GCB's 25th anniversary, and The Nutcracker has grown in ambition and stature to have a budget of approximately $100,000 and over 100 performers. The 2010 Nutcracker featured choreography by Pam Copley, Nutcracker guest star and Ballet Arts Academy teacher Colleen Rosbarsky, and former American Ballet Theatre dancer Matthew Murphy, who played Fritz in GCB’s 1992 production.


"Garden City Ballet's The Nutcracker has been a thread throughout my life as a dancer, parent and choreographer. One of my favorite years was the 25th anniversary. I danced the role of Clara's mother, my sons Greg and Grant were in the party scene, and my daughter Tess, age five, was a gingersnap. Mayor Engen made a special appearance as Mama G and the crowd loved it. A decade has passed since that performance and my kids are almost all grown up. I cherish that family memory. Dance builds community and brings joy into the world." - Colleen Rosbarsky  


In 2011, Mike Verdon took the reins from Michael Murphy. Mike's acting career with GCB goes back 19 years, including his unforgettable role as Herr Drosselmeyer for the past few seasons. His background in theater combined with his intimate knowledge of The Nutcracker made him an ideal choice for this new leadership role. Mike directed in 2012 as well, working alongside assistant director/choreographer Colleen Rosbarsky.


The baton was once again passed back to Director Michael Murphy for the 2013 season of The Nutcracker. New staging, costumes, and choreography no doubt delighted audiences!

For the 2014 season, GCB celebrated its 30th anniversary and was delighted to welcome back former Artistic Director Michele Antonioli. Michele brings a lifetime of ballet expertise and decades of dedication to Missoula's own Nutcracker; lucky for us, she directed the 2015, 2016, and 2017 productions before deciding to retire and free up her time to be with grandchildren. 


Jordan Dehline Burt was thrilled to take the reins as Artistic Director for the 2018 season. She has choreographed for seven GCB Nutcracker seasons, and grew up dancing every year in her hometown's production of The Nutcracker as well. Dehline Burt worked in the Missoula County Public Schools for ten years as a Dance Teaching Artist for SPARK!, which has allowed her to build relationships with students all over Missoula. She is also on faculty at Ballet Arts Academy (BAA) and serves as the studio's office manager.


GCB celebrates its 35th anniversary in 2019! Following the decision of Jordan Dehline Burt to step down as Artistic Director in order to focus on her family, we are delighted to welcome back former Artistic Director, Michele Antonioli.


"I am very excited to have another opportunity to be a part of this beautiful production and the Nutcracker community. It is an honor to share this new adventure with Marie Barnett, Jes Mullette and three of Garden City Ballet’s former artistic directors. I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate our 35th anniversary!" - Michele Antonioli

This holiday favorite has touched the lives, young and old, of more members of our community than can be counted — who continue to find the magical blend of Tchaikovsky’s music and ballet irresistible. The show’s evolution and increasing professionalism have been made possible by a continually active volunteer Board of Directors that embraced these changes and who maintain a relationship with the University of Montana.

Garden City Ballet has come a long way since Miss Kitty first dreamed about producing a Christmas ballet for her students and Missoula audiences. We look forward to many more years ahead, and thank you for joining us on the journey.


History of Dancers in the role of "Clara"


Please help us correct any errors, and fill in omissions. Email updates to: info@gardencityballet.org. Thank you!


2018    Annabella Bradley Browning, Ballet Arts Academy

2017    Audrey Kurz, Ballet Arts Academy

2016    Talla Gass, On Center Performing Arts

2015    Audrey Pettit, On Center Performing Arts

2014    Liana Dillon, Ballet Arts Academy

2013    Rylee Moore, Ballet Arts Academy

2012    Lilian Hardy, On Center Performing Arts

2011    Peyton Humphries-McGovern, Ballet Arts Academy

2010    Nicole Philp, Ballet Arts Academy

2009    Madelaine Graber, Ballet Arts Academy

2008    Regan Samson, On Center Performing Arts

2007    Lindsay Combs, Ballet Arts Academy

2006    Meaghen Brown, Ballet Arts Academy

2005    Taylor Heggen, Ballet Arts Academy

2004    Jocelynn Knudsen, Ballet Arts Academy

2003    Anastasia Warren, Ballet Arts Academy

2002    Lindsay Novis, Ballet Arts Academy

2001    Meaghen Brown, Ballet Arts Academy (MCT)

2000    Elyse Knudsen, Ballet Arts Academy (MCT)

1999    (no GCB Nutcracker?)

1998    Katie Hays, Danceworks

1997    Molly O'Dell, Danceworks

1996    Omeara Harrington, Danceworks

1995    Natalie Stratton, Danceworks

1994    Lauren Cromwell / Carson Murphy, Danceworks

1993    Libby (Bugbee) Addington, Missoula Dance Academy

1992    Erica (Dooley) Anderson / Sarah Hawkins, Danceworks

1991    ???

1990    Alexis Kehayes / and (?)

1989    ???

1988    Liv Diesen / Larissa Ault, Danceworks

1987    Arja Hawley / Amy Noel, Danceworks

1986    Brandy Anderson, Danceworks

1985    Audrey Schenk (studio?)

1984    Jennifer Williams Hossack, pre-Danceworks

1983    Jill (?)

1982    Tenley Maybrouk